A chilly affair                                                    


U.S.A./Britain : CTC : 114mins.   2.5/5

Taking the reins as director, for the first time, Cedric Nicolas-Troyan (who worked on Snow White and the Huntsman) creates this ‘prequel’ to the earlier film with Charlize Theron and Chris Hemsworth reprising their roles of Ravenna, the Evil Queen and Eric, the Huntsman.  New cast members include Emily Blunt, Rob Brydon and Jessica Chastain.

Freya (Emily Blunt) Ravenna’s sister (and with the power to freeze her enemies) has been betrayed and sets out to train an army of huntsmen, including Eric (Chris Hemsworth) and Sara (Jessica Chastain).

In an attempt to beef up the new film’s emotional clout, Huntsman puts love front and centre.  In fact, Freya, the Ice Queen, issues a mandate to her subjects that ‘there shall be no love’ in her kingdom (words which prove to have an ironic truthfulness about them).  When Sara and Eric break this rule with a mutual attraction, the stage is set for a prolonged struggle between the troops of Snow White and those of the Ice Queen.  Unfortunately, the chemistry between the two characters has more of a brother/sister feel to it and any potential love-making is swiftly cut off (this is a family film, after all).

One of the redeeming elements of the first film was the inclusion of the dwarfs – miniaturised but life-sized actors such as Eddie Marsan and Toby Jones.  Writers Craig Mazin, Evan Spiliotopoulos and Frank Darabont have wisely introduced two more, early in The Huntsman – Nion (Nick Frost) and Gryff (Rob Brydon) and they are a comic delight.

But, apart from flashes of humour, The Huntsman is a rather cheerless affair, with little emotional warmth or depth.  Perhaps, those who have the most fun are the CGI guys who gleefully over-indulge, even though their creations are reminiscent, if not derivative, of those of the vastly superior Pan’s Labrynth (2006).

However, the effects and the continual altercations will keep most of the audience distracted from the rather flat writing and confused storyline that challenges the viewer to work out which side the characters are on, so often do they swap allegiances.

The Huntsman:Winter’s War is a film best enjoyed for the spectacle rather than a coherent storyline (in spite of Liam Neeson’s voice-over which tries to keep proceedings on track).  And, there is enough for the eyes to feast on.  Phedon Papamichael’s cinematography provides some evocative scenes of (for instance) barely visible mounted soldiers riding through mist-wreathed woods.

If audiences have not had enough of Snow White, after this second, two hour outing, there is the prophetic line at its conclusion that ‘fairy tales never end’, thus flagging the prospect of a third chapter.  These words (apart from serving to justify mainstream’s insatiable appetite for sequels) are enough to enthrall some in the audience while, for others, they may chill the heart more effectively than the icy tendrils of the malevolent Queen.

Phil.  06.04.16.

(The Huntsman:Winter’s War will screen at Reading Cinema, Belmont from tomorrow, Thursday, April 7th.  Check or the press for details).


Scroll to Top